By Jonny Long
February 25 - Jonas Vingegaard claims stage five of the UAE Tour atop Jebel Jais, finishing three seconds ahead of Tadej Pogačar with a well-timed move inside the final kilometre.
April 26 - Jonas Vingegaard is selected to take Tom Dumoulin's vacant spot in Jumbo-Visma's Tour de France squad.
July 19 - Jonas Vingegaard steps onto the final Tour podium in Paris, having finished second overall.
It's been quite the 2021 for the 24-year-old Dane, Jonas Vingegaard, who says he can't quite believe what he's achieved just yet.
When team leader Primož Roglič abandoned the Tour de France through injury as the race headed towards the Alps, Vingegaard took his opportunity, building upon a strong stage five time trial performance to remain in GC contention as Pogačar began to flex his muscles.
Then, on Mont Ventoux, Vingegaard took the unofficial prize of being the only rider to have dropped the yellow jersey this race, on the second ascent of Mont Ventoux. That was the moment he realised he could really do something this Tour.
Through the Pyrenees, he dug in, following Pogačar up the inclines as the top three, including Richard Carapaz, broke away, sealing off their podium from the rest.
On the stage 20 time trial, Vingegaard finished third, taking 25 seconds on the champion elect. Of course, he acknowledges Pogačar's five-minute buffer didn't necessitate a gut-busting effort reminiscent of last year, but it's maybe given him "a bit of confidence for the future that he’s not unbeatable".
Vingegaard says he likes his privacy in the final press conference of the race, but understands there isn't a lot of that to be found at the Tour. The heady heights of Tour fame and almost-glory are a departure from his origins.
Before the start of stage nine to Tignes, in Cluses, I bump into Vingegaard's parents. How is it possible to spot two middle-aged Danish people I've never met before? The enormous red and white-cross flag draped over their shoulders, and their diminutive stature indicates they're not here to support Mads Pedersen.
"He was actually playing football in the beginning but he was very small," Vingegaard's father says, before elaborating on how his son got into cycling. "I was taking him to the Tour of Denmark, it started in the town we lived in, I took him there and that was the beginning of it, slowly getting into it."
"But he loved cycling from the beginning," his mother chips in. "Very slow," was the realisation that Jonas wanted to turn pro. "He had a tough time in the beginning, very tough, but he had the perseverance to go on."
Vingegaard's time working in the fish market is an interesting anecdote the media have latched onto and soon it will be like referring to Roglič's previous pursuit of ski jumping.
"It tells them definitely about real life, about how you have to work to come up, for sure yes," his parents explain of their son's old job.
Before turning pro Jonas Vingegaard used to work in a fish factory pic.twitter.com/W7JrdLr3wGJuly 8, 2021
"And that it’s not right to be professional when you're a young guy, you have to be an ordinary guy, to work. You don’t need to be professional when you’re young, you can soon enough be professional, you need to learn rules and structure, how to make the best of the day."
EF Education First's Michael Valgren explains that Vingegaard's time in the fish factory was a "copy and paste" of what he did when he was coming up.
"[It was the same fish auction, same job," Valgren tells Cycling Weekly. "I used to work there from six to 11 in the morning and Jonas did more or less the same thing until, actually, I think it was too early for him. But then he got another job with a friend of mine, also in the fishing industry."
Valgren explains that first job involved scanning the boxes the fish were sold in so they could track where they were going and also when they were coming back - a similar system as to how in some European cities you take bottles back to the supermarket and redeem them for a few Euros.
"It's basically like this little machine, you would be scanning all the boxes, you'd be doing a lot of squats from the bottom to the top. It wasn't the ideal job for us cyclists, you had to stand up for hours in a pretty cold room. But I think it was good for us to make a living, to know how to make money as well and I think that's a way that's just become so pervasive in our sport. Like, we didn't get it for free."
Despite all these benefits, Vingegaard believes that eventually leaving the fish market behind is what allowed him to step up another level on his trajectory towards the top of the sport.
"I think because of working in the fish factory I could take another big step because it’s a lot different to have to get up early to go to work and then afterwards go to training for four hours," Vingegaard says. I think that’s why I could take such a big step."
That big step will likely now cause a ripple in Vingegaard's otherwise quiet life, although he's committed to trying to keep things as normal as possible.
"I’m really happy about this second in the Tour, there’s a lot more attention now but I guess that’s also part of the game, but for now I take it quite easy. I’m no different than I was before, I’m still the same Jonas."
Luckily, fame has already touched Vingegaard's family, the mother of his wife, who fairly recently gave him his first child, is a huge TV star in Denmark after appearing on the Danish version of The Great British Bake Off and capturing the hearts of the nation.
"She was in the show four or five years ago, you have to bake and then someone goes further and somebody goes out, she came about halfway I think," Vingegaard's mother explains.
Rosa Kildahl, the mother-in-law, managed to travel over to France to watch Jonas on the road, accompanied by her daughter and granddaughter
"This is how my Tour de France debut started - full garbage of merchandise and being cheerleaders," she posted on Instagram. "A gift to bring life to experience Jonas' great efforts with daughter and granddaughter - a memory for life."
"She’s very funny," Vingegaard's mother continues. "Making fun of everything and still bakes a lot of cakes. She's very popular in Denmark - everybody knows her, all of Denmark!"
Soon, the whole of Denmark will also know who her son is as well.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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